London Prize Fights of the 17th Century

By Phin Upham

Boxing became a sport in ancient Sumer, but it wasn’t until the Romans got to the sport that it became something akin to the sport we know today. The Roman version was undeniably brutal, and slaves often fought to the death in these matches. Still, the Romans were the first to employ the usage of gloves to make the fights last longer and protect the hands of the fighters.

The British took these rules a step further, but only after the wearing of swords once again fell out of favor. Boxing became like fencing with fists, which made fights a grand public spectacle of great skill and physical prowess. Broughton’s Rules, written in 1743, outline exactly how these fights were allowed to go down.

Early forms of boxing had no rules governing the conclusion of a match, so fighting stopped only after someone was unconscious (or dead, in severe cases). Broughton’s Rules changed those circumstances using a few key additions to the rulebook. The first was the standing count. Its first iteration was a lot longer than 8 seconds, however. Fighters who went down could not be struck, and had a maximum of 30 seconds to recover and stand for the fight. Taking the full time was considered “unmanly”, but it occurred never the less.

Early boxing was also far more physical, even under Broughton’s Rules. His rules were aimed at protecting the life of the fighter, but allowed for biting and head butting. Fighters could also perform hard takedowns of other fighters, which is strictly prohibited by the rules of modern boxing.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or LinkedIn page.